THE 64-6 SCORELINE at Allianz Park eroded much of the lustre of what has been Connacht’s best ever Heineken Cup campaign.
Pat Lam’s men were well and truly flayed by Saracens and the result could have been worse if Charlie Hodgson had remember how to navigate the ball through the posts at his numerous conversion attempts.
The positive vibes that have infused the Connacht squad ever since they toppled Toulouse at the Stade Ernest-Wallon have faded. Lam has a huge job ahead of himself to rally the troops over the three-week break between yesterday’s pasting and their Pro12 game, away to Glasgow Warriors on 9 February.
The result was a disappointing conclusion to a Heineken Cup campaign that promised so much, after round three, and a week in which three Connacht players were called up for Ireland’s extended Six Nations squad. Scrum-half Kieran Marmion and tight-head Rodney Ah You joined squad ‘veteran’ Robbie Henshaw and all three will be hoping to feature in the Wolfhounds team to face England.
Connacht hooker Sean Henry believes the call-ups are merited and paid credit to Ireland coach Joe Schmidt for being a visible presence at training and matches in Galway. He told TheScore.ie: “It’s great as they have made an effort to come down. They told us what they were looking for and what ties into their gameplan. We were told that if you are playing well, you will be considered. That has obviously happened with the three lads getting the call.”
Henry added, “Kieran has been outstanding all year and has played a ridiculous amount of consecutive games since his debut. He’s played 46 times now; that’s crazy. It shows how important he has become to the team.”
Kieran Marmion sprints away from opposite number Eoin Reddan. INPHO/James Crombie
“It was not until I came here [last summer] and played with Rodney that I realised how good he is. You can see the natural power the man has and his explosiveness can be off the chart. He has put in a tough slog to get where he is now and he has all the gifts to play for Ireland.”
With former Connacht players Ian Keatley, Sean Cronin and Mike McCarthy also named in the 44-man squad, there is further reason for the province to take heart and realise that genuine progress can be made out west. Cutting out the occasional cricket score losses is the next big task.
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